Quiet Lost is a story of betrayal, murder, love and lost love. It will require several chapters to tell Neil’s story.
Tuesday, September 15
“Hey, Man,” Brad said as he held the door open.
He wouldn’t have recognized his brother on the street. Neil’s face seemed to have sunk in on itself; his red eyes receding in their orbs. Brad moved forward to offer a hug but backed away sensing a wall of harshness deeper than Neil’s usual glued-in-place disapproval.
“Come sit down. You want some coffee or water?” Brad felt unaccustomedly awkward.
Not bothering to answer, Neil brushed by his brother and walked to the window, opened the heavy drapes revealing a crystal clear view of thejutting majestically in the western sky, northward slanting shadows lending a cold starkness in the midday sunshine.
He turned and fixed a penetrating gaze on his brother. “I want to know what’s going on. I want to know how all this happened.” Neil’s voice continued to rise in volume. “It’s all I can do to not beat you to a pulp. As far I’m concerned, you’re as responsible as those thugs for killing my wife and putting my daughter in the hospital. Why would you think they ‘got me’? Did you tell them where I live; how did they know how to find my family?”
Calista… Brad stood stone still for a moment then felt his knees go soft as he fell onto the edge of the bed then slid to the floor, his legs straight out in front of him, limp as a ragdoll.
He looked up at Neil’s unforgiving face, unable to move, feeling the earth pull him down, sucking him in, demanding to cover him with six feet of dirt. He gazed stupidly up at Neil.
“Come on, Brad. Where’s the guy that always has a come-back?” A vein in Neil’s temple visibly throbbed. “Tell me who these guys really are and how you’re involved with them. I don’t know who I’m dealing with or what may happen to what’s left of my family… I’ve got to see Cassie – I have to know she’s ok, and then – I don’t know…” Neil leaned toward Brad, hands on his knees, head jutting forward. His voice dropped low, “– Yes I do – whoever murdered Samantha — I want to return the favor with my own hands.”
He grabbed Brad by the shirt pulling him to his feet then sat him hard on the bed. “Start talking, NOW.”
Brad answered with less than his usual bravado, “I think they’re the Xatala family. I never really paid much attention; Calista always did the communications.”
“Who the hell is Xatala? Are they a…, what…,” sarcasm dripped from Neil’s voice, “a cartel or something?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
Neil stopped dead still for a moment. “Fuck, Brad, they are or they aren’t.” He squinted his eyes in anger at Brad’s remorseful face. “Sit right there. Don’t move. I’ll be back in a couple minutes – give me your room key. Turn the TV on, and find a news channel.”
Neil returned minutes later with his laptop, found the hotel Wi-Fi. A Google search brought the Xatala Familia up immediately. News sites, blogs, even Wikipedia had plenty to say, none of it nice. Nicknames, mug shots, horror stories aplenty. The two brothers sat side-by-side perusing posts that read like a movie screenplay.
“Were those guys in the bar part of the Xatala clan?” Neil asked.
Brad looked sick. “They must be.” He let out a deep breath. “And I’ve been thinking about Calista… She always had to meet with our supplier alone. All the texts and phone calls. Saying that I had my job, she had hers; don’t bother myself with her end of it…
“She’s been messing with me… She’s gotta be in deep with them. She had to have set me up that night you came to the Old Boulder Bar. I bet she told them I did all the skimming; that she’s some innocent victim. I am such a sucker. And then I fell for it again last night. Shit.”
“What about last night? What happened?”
Brad moved over to the one chair in the room. He relayed the events of the previous evening; unable to look at Neil when he talked of entering the house on Pikes Peak; told of his escape on foot and stolen wheels. “I hate myself. I know it doesn’t mean anything to you, but I feel like the disgusting coward you must see me as.”
Neil sat quietly on the edge of the bed, slumped over his laptop. He closed it and walked back to the window, stared vacantly at the landscape.
“I saw it all, and I ran,” Neil’s words sounded hoarse. He turned toward Brad. “At least you called 911. You probably saved Cassie’s life; I thought she was dead.”
Brad’s eyes were huge and sad with moisture, his mouth half open.
Neil continued, “I came home after work. Cassie and Samantha were…” An eerie sound wrought with sorrow escaped his throat. He caught his breath and looked into Brad’s face. “That guy from the bar and another man were upstairs when I got there. I saw them, and I ran… I left Samantha and Cassie there…”
He blinked and swallowed hard. “They followed me. I don’t know how in the world I lost them, but I ended up at a mountain lake close to Estes and slept in your truck last night… Hell, I’m as much to blame for all this as you are.”
Brad looked up at his brother’s ravaged face and felt a respect he’d never known. Is this what adulthood looks like? To face the death of life and still be reasonable? To lose value beyond comprehension and move past the emotionality into thoughtfulness?
Their attention was drawn to the television. “The younger brother of Alfredo Xatala, the kingpin of the notorious Xatala Familia, was killed late Saturday evening at ain Boulder, Colorado. Juan Xatala, aka “Torito” or “Little Bull”, was announced dead on the scene after involvement in a barroom brawl. Neil Durham, a resident of Boulder was arrested later that night on a charge of manslaughter and released on bond.
“Police are concurrently investigating the brutal murder of the wife of Mr. Durham, Samantha Durham, on Monday evening. His daughter was injured but it is in stable condition at an area hospital. The police are looking for Mr. Durham.”
Neil shook his head and mumbled, “Torito, humph.” He looked at Brad. “We’re mired in quicksand; they aren’t going to leave us alone until we’re dead… and everyone we love, right?”
Brad’s shoulders dropped. “That would be my guess.”
A barest glint of life showed in Neil’s eyes; determination pulling him from the depths. “OK, let’s get busy, Brother.”
Chapter 15 coming soon.